Albert Toft, Bust of a Woman with Downcast Eyes, c. 1900. bronze, 20 inches (51 cm) high. Signed Albert Toft. Private Collection. Click on image to enlarge it
Toft was one of the major figures of the New Sculpture movement. His early works were primarily medallions and portrait busts, but he later received commissions for “ideal” work such as statuary and architectural reliefs. This bust appears to be an ideal work rather than a portrait commission based on the pose of the head of the woman with her downcast eyes and forlorn expression. A marble version of this work entitled Study of a Woman’s Head was illustrated in The Studio Magazine in October, 1915 on page 24. This may be the marble bust that later sold at Christie’s, London, in 1991.
The model for this work is unknown but she is typical of the ideal type chosen by Toft with her beautiful face, straight or slightly wavy hair parted in the middle, heavily lidded eyes, a sensuous mouth, and a small slightly cleft chin. As John Claves-Smith has noted about Toft’s ideal works as compared to those of many artists associated with New Sculpture: “Toft was more concerned to develop the expressive potential of figure modelling than to communicate elaborate symbolism” (56). The Symbolist Movement was one of the major influences on progressive British sculptors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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Christie’s, London. The Nineteenth Century, September 25, 1991, lot 105, bust of a lady, her head poised downward, marble.
Claves-Smith, John. Reverie, Myth, Sensuality Sculpture in Britain 1880-1910, Stoke on Trent Museum and Art Gallery, 1992, cat. 30.
Reddie, Arthur. "Albert Toft: Sculptor.” The International Studio Magazine, 56 (1915): 18-28.
Created 1 June 2021